As one of al-Qaeda’s most respected scholars and bomb-makers, Aimen Dean rubbed shoulders with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden himself. His job was already one of the most dangerous in the world. But what the others didn’t know was that he was working undercover for MI6.
...an extraordinary story ... It is unprecedented that any such individual publishes a detailed memoir of more than a decade of his activity at very nearly the highest possible levels of Islamist militancy ... Aimen Dean – not, inevitably, his real name – tells the story well. He has been ably assisted by Paul Cruickshank, a US-based researcher and journalist who has both a deep knowledge of the subject and the ability to transform the raw material of an agent’s memories into something digestible to the general public ... Nine Lives works on many levels: as a human story of faith, violence, trauma and eventually a form of redemption, a deep dive into the inner workings of one of the most infamous terrorist organisations of all time and as a short history of the threat that we still face ... a fascinating glimpse into the reality of spying.
Nine Lives should dispel doubts about the essential truth of his tale. Detailed and weird, it contains enough verifiable fact, and enough idiosyncrasy, to establish as his co-authors Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank write, that 'there simply wasn’t another informant inside al-Qaeda like him' ... a major contribution to the literature of espionage, and a rare book to say something original about contemporary jihadism ... On this last point Mr. Dean is frustratingly opaque. Even as a reader grateful for his service against al Qaeda, I find the nonchalance of his perfidy alarming, even chilling ... from a writer one wants a few more moments of reflection.
Nine Lives is an endlessly fascinating portrayal of al-Qaeda and the jihadist movement before and after 9/11 ... Dean’s book is not afraid to point out the flaws of the West’s response to terrorism ... Nine Lives is a thrill ride of an autobiography ... Nine Lives is also an exquisite portrait of what it is like to be a secret agent caught in limbo between the West and the Middle East. Dean’s tale is a harrowing one and should be an eye-opener to any armchair pundit who thinks that the War on Terrorism is an easy fix ... a must read for anyone who seriously wants to end the scourge of jihadi terrorism in the West and the East.